Library rack contributed to couple's injuries, suit alleges

By Lawrence Smith | Feb 13, 2009

CHARLESTON - An elderly couple is suing the Kanawha County Public Library for injuries they allege they sustained while visiting one of the library's branches in 2007.

On Jan. 16, Lawrence and Beatrice McElhinny filed a lawsuit against KCPL and its Dunbar branch in Kanawha Circuit Court. In their complaint and suit, filed with the assistance of Charleston attorney H. H. Roberts, Lawrence, 92, and Beatrice, 85, of Charleston, allege they have "suffered a much lower quality of life" from injuries Lawrence sustained after a fall at the Dunbar branch.

According to court records, Lawrence went to the Dunbar branch on May 29, 2007 at to attend an exercise class. The class started at 9 a.m. and concluded an hour later.

Upon conclusion of the class, McElhinny went to library's front desk. After he informed the clerk the class was done for the day, records show he caught his left foot under a mobile wire rack causing him to fall.

After his fall, McElhinny was transported via ambulance to Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston. His fall resulted in him damaging his left hip and joint to the point that he required extensive surgery.

Following his surgery, McElhinny remained as patient at Thomas for a month. Records show despite being discharged, he's undergone extensive post-operative care including "physical therapy and numerous office visits to the doctor."

Furthermore, McElhinny alleges that his injuries "are of a permanent nature and have permanently disabled him." Prior to May 29, 2007, he maintains he was able to walk "with confidence" with a cane.

However, he alleges he is now confined to a wheelchair because back spasms prevent him from using a walker.

In his suit, McElhinny alleges as a result of the library's negligence "he no longer enjoys the quality of life that he did before the injury," and has incurred $50,000 in medical expenses because of it. Likewise, the injury was caused Beatrice to lose Lawrence's consortium and companionship.

In addition a judgment in the amount of damages they suffered, the McElhinny's are asking they be awarded reasonable costs.

The case has been assigned to Judge James C. Stucky

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-80

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